- Chairman Gudni Bergsson first to step down
- Board tried to cover up abuse claim against player
The whole board of the Icelandic Football Association (IFA) has resigned after it was claimed that it had tried to cover up an allegation of sexual abuse against Kolbeinn Sigthórsson, a forward for the national team.
On Sunday the chairman of the IFA, the former Bolton Wanderers player Gudni Bergsson, stepped down, having said in a TV interview last week that the association had not received any complaints of sexual abuse involving a player on the national team.
Before resigning, the board issued a statement apologising to victims of sexual abuse for having failed them, vowing to do better in the future. “Dear victims of sexual abuse, we the members of the board of the IFA, believe you and would like to sincerely apologise to you.”
The woman who filed the complaint, Torhildur Gyda Arnardottir, then went public with her allegation, saying that an unnamed player had groped her and later grabbed her by the neck in a bar in Reykjavik in 2017. She went to the police the day after the incident and filed a complaint against the player. The police investigation did not lead to the player, who has since been named as Sigthórsson, being charged.
Six months after the incident Arnardottir’s father sent an email to Bergsson and the other board members of the IFA to let them know about the complaint to the police and to criticise the fact that the player had continued to be selected for the national team.
After the email Arnardottir’s parents received a telephone call from Bergsson in which he said that there would be consequences for Sigthórsson, who was subsequently not selected for the national team for a brief period.
She decided to share her story after Bergsson’s appearance on TV in which he said that the Icelandic FA “had not received” a “complaint” or “any kind of a tip” involving the alleged sexual abuse by a “particular” player. She said in an interview: “I was not expecting any of this. I had just had enough after this interview. I felt like me and my family were being called liars because of what I have been through and the fact that Bergsson contacted us after my father’s email.”
Sigthórsson, formerly of Ajax in the Netherlands, plays for IFK Göteborg and has been capped 64 times for Iceland, scoring 26 times.
He released a statement on Wednesday admitting that his behaviour had been inappropriate at times and that he met Arnardottir and her friend in 2018 to hear their side of the story. The statement said: “I did not recognise having harassed them, nor did I recognise having resorted to violence and I declined any guilt. My behaviour was, however, not exemplary, for which I apologised.
“I regretted that, accepted responsibility and offered to settle the incident between us. Arnardottir and her friend demanded an apology and a payment. I accepted their demands and additionally paid ISK3m (£17,200) to the non-governmental organisation Stígamót in recognition of their important work on behalf of survivors of sexual violence.
“This concluded the incident. The KSI was informed of the proceedings and the conclusion of the matter but the association’s denial in Icelandic media recently has led to Arnardottir feeling she was being robbed of her closure by the association. I can understand that.”
A new board of the IFA will be selected in four weeks’ time when the association will hold a special meeting prompted by the mass resignation.
(The Guardian, 01.09.2021)